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Rise in whooping cough a reminder to start the year with up-to-date immunisations
31 January 2017

Whooping cough notifications rose across the Bay of Plenty last year, and already in 2017 we have seen small children admitted to hospital.

Toi Te Ora – Public Health Service was notified of 95 people with whooping cough in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes districts in 2016, up from 34 in 2015.  In 2016, ten cases were babies aged one year and under (who are most at risk of complication) and 11 were young children aged from one to four years old.

“2017 isn’t off to a good start with six cases notified already, two of these in babies. Whooping cough can be a very serious disease for babies, often requiring intensive hospital treatment,” says Toi Te Ora – Public Health Service Medical Officer of Health, Dr Phil Shoemack. 

To protect our most vulnerable, everyone needs to be aware of the importance of immunisation against whooping cough. 

  • Pregnant women should be immunised against whooping cough between 28 and 38 weeks during each pregnancy.

  • Babies need to receive their first dose of vaccine on time at 6 weeks.

  • Everyone else should check with their family practice that they are up to date.

The most effective way to protect babies from birth is to vaccinate the mother during pregnancy so that antibodies are passed on to the baby.  These antibodies will help reduce the likelihood of the baby becoming ill with whooping cough before their first immunisation at 6 weeks. 

“With school and kindergarten re-opening for the New Year I strongly recommend checking your family is up to date with all immunisations.  Whooping cough is a preventable disease.  Immunisation for whooping cough is part of the routine free childhood immunisation programme and is also free for pregnant women.  If a scheduled immunisation has been missed, or you are unsure whether a family member is immunised, contact your family doctor or practice nurse.  It’s never too late to catch up,” Dr Shoemack adds.

Whooping cough is a highly infectious and distressing illness caused by bacteria that are spread through the community by coughing and sneezing in the same way as colds and influenza.  Symptoms start with a runny nose, fever and dry cough. Coughing gets worse over the next few weeks developing into attacks of coughing and sometimes vomiting. The ‘whoop’ sound occurs as a baby draws a breath after a long coughing attack.  Babies under one year are most at risk of serious complications from the illness.

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Last modified: 26 Mar 2020
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